Windows registry errors, symptoms, and defenses.

We hear tales of contaminated Windows registry files and of a direct association to operating system crashes. Software vendors and computer repair centers post email about programs that are designed to keep the Windows registry clean and uncluttered. They allege that the efficiency of a Windows driven computer system is dependent upon this single Windows file. They talk about keys and classes and registry values. An ongoing cluster-mess of daily software failures, blotched hardware installs, and device driver errors link back to this major Windows system file.

The complaints seem to relate to an overkill situation of too much credit (or blame) being applied to a solitary Windows data file. But that would be a false assumption. Careless management of the Windows registry file can result in poor system performance, major data loss, and even a complete system failure. At the Microsoft support site, a query for the phrase “registry error” returns 763,000 results. A contaminated Windows registry file is serious business.

Concerning the pinpoint details of the Windows registry file, the list of books and articles touch into the millions. An Internet query on “what is the Windows registry?” brings back 244,000,000 results. This article does not seek to improve on those answers. Here are two sites that provide an in-depth description of the Windows registry components:

· Wikipedia the free encyclopidia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_registry.
· Indiana University: http://kb.iu.edu/data/aeof.html.

For instructions into specific Windows registry damage and repair issues, see the Microsoft support center. The focus of this article centers on the symptoms of registry damage, and a few basic defense methods.

Symptoms of a corrupt Windows Registry file.

During the course of normal use, every Windows driven computer system will suffer from some form of Windows registry damage. But the symptoms are common to various computer failures. No sole computer malfunction can be specifically assigned as a registry error. Failing hard drives, defective device drivers, memory faults, and other hardware/software issues can create identical symptoms. Read the following list with an eye toward multiple registry error symptoms.

1. Slow performance. When a computer loses the responsive snap that is associated with the out-of-box experience, suspect a contaminated Windows registry file.

2. Missing file reports. Programs that were once trustworthy cease to open. Windows reports a file not found error. In order to create the error message as displayed in Figure 1, I merely renamed the “Merge.exe” file so that Windows could not locate it. Concerning that file, the Windows registry data is now in error.

3. Missing OLE error message. This results when one of the Windows registry elements of a compound document cannot be located.

4. Contaminated or missing desktop icons. Notice Figure 2. The desktop trash bin shows empty, yet the examination window shows that the trash bin is full. To create this registry error, I manipulated the known registry location of the “full trash” icon.

5. Strange symbols and file names begin to show up under My Computer. Note that this is also a primary symptom of a damaged hard drive.

6. The start menu control panel option ceases to function.

7. The system can no longer make an Internet connection.

8. Missing network information. The network connections menu no longer displays a list of available networks (Figure 3).

9. Devices begin to stop functioning and the Windows device manager no longer listed them as active or installed.

10. Random system crashes and reboots.

11. Safe mode becomes the only way of getting Windows to load.

12. The Windows registry editor will not run. This includes the Startup registry scanner routines.

13. A point blank message from the OS stating that the “registry has been damaged”.

14. Bringing up the system requires multiple and repeated restarts.

Defending a system from Windows registry corruptions.

Train yourself to recognize the symptoms. This is your best defense against a Windows registry error. Under most conditions, the quicker a registry problem is noticed, the easier it is to repair. Modifying the Windows registry is a risky business, and should be reserved for trained computer technicians.

Study the following list. The applied principles and techniques may prevent an expensive service call.

· Backup the system registry file. From within Windows Vista, open the windows help menu. In the search box type “registry backup”. Chose option one. Follow the steps as shown in Figure 4.

· All installations of new software should be accompanied by a heightened sense of system observation. Look for telltale signs.

· Never make more than one change at a time. When system changes request a reboot, do it then. Make no effort to complete several tasks at once.

· Do not wait for trouble to start. Go to the Microsoft support center. Print out some basic instructions. Load up on any available, free defense tools: http://support.microsoft.com/search/default.aspx?qid=49571&query=registry+repair+tool&catalog=LCID%3D1033&mode=r.

· Install a registry cleaner. The market is filled with both free and purchased registry maintenance and repair tools.

Practice safe computing. Stay prepared. Learn the location of the best local repair centers. Happy computing.